August 23rd, 2021

When a Yoga Mat Becomes a Lifeline

When COVID-19 began, I sat down to write a blog post. Finding Focus in the Unexpected chronicled my journey to self-acceptance, and told how practicing yoga helped me make commitments to myself and to my well-being. Fast-forward a year into the pandemic, and I found that yoga was something I needed more than ever. In January 2021, I was laid off from my job, leaving me shocked and numb. I didn’t know how to feel, so I opted to pour my heart onto my yoga mat to heal.  

I had started my part-time job in the early days of the pandemic. It wasn’t easy. I had little face-to-face contact with my colleagues until the fall when our organization’s volunteer program began to take off. As the coordinator of this program, I met with my team frequently in my hometown of New York City to keep the program organized. As the first season ended, it was clear that the program was a success. I sensed that there would be a change in my title and even a raise in the new year. I went about doing my work from home on the East End of Long Island with little idea of how to balance work with self-care. 

Amid this lack of stability while working from home, I let my yoga practice fall by the wayside. I took walks every day, but I struggled to find my groove in an at-home yoga routine. Like most people with ADHD, I have faced challenges in executive functioning, and I’ve had to learn skills for managing my life and taking care of my own needs. I admit to having put other people’s needs before my own, which meant I neglected my yoga practice. I longed for my pre-pandemic life: Monday evenings, when I would attend a yoga “flow” class with my friend and instructor Claudia. The occasional Friday morning “chill” class with Stefanie, another friend and instructor. My yoga practice once had a strict schedule. Without that, I couldn’t find the strength in me to get back on the mat. 

When I lost my job, I decided it was time to get back into an exercise routine that included yoga. On my second day of practicing yoga alongside on-demand videos, I went to reach for my toes and inhaled a routine breath. When I came up on the exhale, I started to cry. I finally felt the sharp, emotional pain that comes with a surge of sadness. This feeling was not the numbness I had felt before. Instead, I had feelings of loneliness and sadness.

I wondered if I would recover from the shock and uncertainty of not having a job. I have been defined by my work since I graduated from college in 2018. I didn’t know a life where I was not a person in the working world. My job prospects filled me with fear. And I was afraid to face my true feelings surrounding being let go. 

Losing my job was not on my terms. I have always strived to be my own person. I am more than a person with ADHD. I’m a young adult who loves to explore New York City, visit national parks, bake bread, and travel. And I’m dedicated to my yoga practice. 

In that moment of loneliness and sadness, I decided to keep moving and finish the on-demand class. I had come far in my emotional journey in less than five minutes. There was no turning back! 

The good news was that my yoga practice was well on its way to coming back. I had found a way to connect with my favorite instructors. Claudia had recorded some classes before the pandemic, and I was able to watch them on my own time through an on-demand platform. This made it much easier to get back to my yoga mat. While Claudia wasn’t with me in person, her expressions and guidance made me feel as if she were there for me and with me. Stefanie’s classes also offered escape. While we couldn’t meet in person, I was reconnecting with those who had always fostered a community of love and acceptance during some of the trying times I had faced in the past. 

With each downward dog, child’s pose, pyramid pose, and Shavasana (resting pose), I felt stronger. I was on my way to healing from the loss of my job. From that day forward, I pledged to talk about what I was feeling.

I’ve come a long way from the days when the school psychologist would ask if I knew any words besides “good” or “OK” to describe my feelings. As a kid, I had worked with therapists because I struggled to communicate. These therapists would try to coax information out of me. I could not get the words out. In my young adult years, I’ve gotten a lot better at sharing feelings.

Yoga has enabled me to open up. It’s a commitment to myself to heal and honor the things I have control over. I even increased my range of mobility and vocabulary to describe my feelings! I went from being reserved to being stronger — in one instance being able to articulate that I was mentally tired and could not commit to getting through a long seminar.

Yoga continues to help me in ways I never imagined. And to this day, I always find a way to get my practice into my schedule. I’ve decided that I need to bend and curve. I can’t change the fact that I was laid off — but I can own the narrative.

This blog was written by Julia Kaback, one of NCLD’s Young Adult Leadership Council members.

The Latest From NCLD

See what NCLD has been advocating for and get the most recent news on learning and attention issues.

Join the NCLD movement